In December of 1956 Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, the original Million Dollar Quartet got together in the Sun Records Studio in Memphis. This session although not the birth of Rock & Roll was where it began to mature. It was a combination of Rockabilly, Country and Gospel music that emerged as each member’s talents began to shine.
The jam session seems to have just come together. Perkins, who had already had Sun Records first million seller “Blue Suede Shoes,” had come into the studios that day, with his brothers Clayton and Jay along with drummer W.S. Holland. They were going to record some new material including an arrangement of an old blues song, “Matchbox.” Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, who wanted to give more energy to the rockabilly sound of the Perkins brothers, brought his latest acquisition, singer and piano player, Jerry Lee Lewis, still unknown outside Memphis, to play the piano on the Perkins session.
Sometime in the early afternoon, Elvis Presley who had been with RCA for a little over a year dropped in to pay a visit accompanied by a girlfriend, Marilyn Evans. He had become one of the biggest names in show business. He already had five #1 hits and two #1 albums since he left Sun Records. He also had received some pretty impressive ratings from his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, pulling in an unheard of 83% of the television audience, which was about 55 million, the largest in history at that time. After talking with Phillips in the control room, he listened to the playback of the Perkins’ session, which he thought was good. Then he went into the studio and before long the jam session began. Phillips left the tapes running for a souvenir and for posterity. At some point during the session, Johnny Cash, who had a few hits on the country charts under his belt, came in. As Jerry Lee pounded away on the piano, Elvis and his girlfriend by that point had left the studio. Cash wrote in his autobiography, Cash that “no one wanted to follow Jerry Lee, not even Elvis”
Phillips seized the opportunity for some publicity and called Bob Johnson, the entertainment editor of the Memphis Press-Scimitar who came over with a photographer.
The next day an article written by Johnson about the session was published in the paper titled “Million Dollar Quartet.” The article included the picture you see above of Elvis at the piano surrounded by Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.